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Saturday Night Live Episode Recap

Episode 3808: Jeremy Renner/Maroon 5

By

Jeremy Renner hosts Saturday Night Live
Photo courtesy NBC

Intense action movie star Jeremy Renner -- a guy not really well known for comedy -- hosted Saturday Night Live this week for the first time. If that sounds a lot like the description of when intense action movie star Daniel Craig hosted earlier this season, that's because it was a lot like that, results and all. Renner did his best, but was never convincingly funny; in his defense, he was only given two or three characters to play that might have gotten laughs, and managed to get a few with at least one of those. It was a disconnected episode overall, with Renner appearing embarrassed during the monologue and annoyed when a piano got no sound (though he covered for it well; that monologue, in which Renner SANG, isn't available on the NBC site because it used some copyrighted music). Those emotions never really went away. Even the cast members seemed to recognize that this was going to be a bad week, so they disassociated themselves by cracking up and trying to make each other break. This was a rough one.

Sketch Highlights

  • "Cold Open: C-SPAN Booknotes" - Things got off to a pretty rough start with this cold open. It's no surprise that SNL got a LOT of mileage out of the General Petraeus sex scandal this week, because the whole thing is crazy and ridiculous and a perfect target for the kind of thing Saturday Night Live does on a good week. This wasn't really a good week, though, so we got a loooong and sloooow cold open that's more idea based than joke-based, which isn't always the best way to draw in the audience. That's too bad, because there was sort of a funny idea at work. I did appreciate that the "Live from New York" part appeared as a text graphic read by announcer, instead of cutting back to the cast and shoehorning it in as the show is so fond of doing these days. (Watch the "Cold Open: C-SPAN Booknotes" video)
  • "Tourism Ad" - Just in time for everyone to go home for the holidays, SNL comes up with this funny commercial parody that turns a hometown visit into a travel commercial. There were a handful of really funny jokes (that "deepest TV" one is the best) and a few lazy ones, too. Still, one of the better segments of the night, because it had a funny idea AND good jokes. (Watch the "Tourism Ad" video)
  • "The Californians" - Once upon a time, "The Californians" was kind of a funny sketch. Fred Armisen's vocal affect (no one else does it as well) is amusing, and the conceit that everyone speaks in driving directions is funny even if you aren't all that aware of whether or not that's a thing people do out on the West Coast. But, like so many repeat sketches, the novelty has eroded over time, and anything that was once amusing has been bled out of it through familiarity. Even the direction thing is mostly gone by now. In its place is guest host Jeremy Renner trying (and failing) to do the vocal affect, every bit being punctuated by the whole cast looking in that damn mirror (which is a very low energy punchline, but, then, this was an episode with a lot of problems in terms of pacing) and Fred Armisen and Bill Hader trying to make each other laugh just to have something to do. There seemed to be a lot of that going on this week. (Watch the "The Californians" video)
  • "The Situation Room: David Petraeus" - More Petraeus material, but this was more successful than the cold open. Jason Sudeikis's Wolf Blitzer is really starting to become its own thing, which is good; now it just needs to be funnier. The conceit about only having one video and one picture to run of socialite Jill Kelley was a funny one, and astutely pinpointed something that's very true about contemporary "journalism" -- if you don't have anything real to run, don't let that stop you. It's a joke that the sketch should have gone much further with but called attention to far less (we didn't need Sudeikis constantly pointing out that it was the same footage), but on a disappointing week like this it's far more productive to focus on what the episode did right and not on what it could have done to be even better. (Watch the "Situation Room: David Petraeus" video)
  • "The Stand Off" - I think a lot of people will really like this sketch -- the show's requisite pre-taped bit that's basically a Digital Short without being called one. I get why they'll like it, too. But it all seemed pretty obvious to me. It made good use of Jeremy Renner's screen persona (and was one of only two sketches this week that let him be funny at all), but everything about it -- including the punchline -- could be predicted practically from the outset. I'm probably the problem here. I've been watching the show for so long that I need to be surprised for something to make me laugh, and there wasn't anything in the sketch that was very surprising. (Watch the "Stand Off" video)
  • "The Avengers" - Yikes. This was a mess. Expensive costumes, lots of production design, but ultimately just too ambitious on a technical level to really succeed. I liked hearing the cast impressions of the Avengers stars, but once the sketch got into having to cut around and do stunts and stuff, the needs of the camerawork and editing stepped all over any of the comedy. Even the central joke about Renner's Hawkeye was basically the same joke The State did in their "Justice League" sketch nearly 20 years ago. I did like Renner's line about how he killed 11 of the thousands of alien invaders. "You're welcome!" (Watch the "Avengers" video)
  • "Movie Set" - Jason Sudeikis appeared a LOT in this episode, and many of his characters are starting to bleed together -- all gruff-voiced, shouty bravado. This new character, a glorified movie extra named "Dick Juice," might as well be Sudeikis's Joe Biden dressed up as Vin Diesel. Renner once again got to play the straight man. Did no one consider making him the obnoxious actor? Or were they worried that it needed to be a regular cast member so that Dick Juice can show up again later this season? And does anybody actually WANT that? (Watch the "Movie Set" video)
  • "Cartoon: Drones" - Once upon a time, this was called "TV Funhouse." It's weird to see SNL keeping all of these traditions going even after their creators depart the show and pretending like nothing's changed. That's maybe the only interesting thing about this sketch, though, because it wasn't very good otherwise. (Watch the "Cartoon: Drones" video)
  • "Coroner" - Definitely the funniest sketch of the night, which both speaks to the quality of the writing here but also to the disappointment of the episode overall. It was distracting to watch Bill Haider pull focus and try to make Taran Killam laugh for most of the sketch (I guess the cast really just gave up this week) and Jason Sudeikis is getting entirely too much screen time this season -- he's the new Kristen Wiig, which means he'll probably be retiring from the show in a matter of weeks -- but there were a lot of funny jokes. Best of all, the jokes came really quickly; for an episode that seemed pretty lethargic and poorly paced, it was great to finally hear some rapid-fire back and forth. This was the only sketch of the night in which Jeremy Renner got any laughs too -- maybe the only one in which he got to be funny at all. I still laugh thinking about him asking "Wait, is it two people?" I liked this sketch because I can picture the writers pitching potential lines to one another and cracking up. (Watch the "Coroner" video)
  • Original Air Date: 11/17/12
  • Host: Jeremy Renner
  • Musical Guest: Maroon 5
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